My colleagues, Leslie Stambaugh and Jim Stilwell, and I have published an ebook to illustrate principles and best practices of effective communication in organizations. Leaders in every organization in which we have worked have told us that their organizaion had a "communication problem." The
communication problem bucket is very large, making it quite easy to pour most organizational concerns into it. Lack of productivity, lack of efficiency, failure to meet budget requirements, failure to meet market demands, delivery of products to customers that are out-of-the-box failures, and a whole host of departmental, team and interpersonal issues are all attributed to a “communication problem.” No doubt there is some truth to this attribution, but what does it really mean when people say they have a "communication problem?" These problems can be extremely complex because of the multiple factors that cause messages to go awry.
We have created scenarios (short, fictional case studies) from a composite of our own experiences that reflect many of the assumptions stated above. These scenarios provide reality-based situations that are typical of what managers face in most complex organizations. The situations are:
- Facilitating Cross-Functional Projects
- Planning for Organizational Change
- Building Support for Organizational Change
- Collaborating Between Teams and Non-Team Members
- Resolving Conflict Among Team Members
- Organizational Transparency
- Communicating Down the Organization
- Communicating Up the Organization
- Building Trust in Leadership
For example, the chapter titled, "Facilitating Cross-Functional Projects," starts out with this story:
Bill Smith, VP of Sales at High Tech Inc, and his leadership team, had gathered feedback from customers and concluded that the sales department needed a major reorganization. Customers were complaining that they were no longer receiving the customized solutions they had come to expect from High Tech Inc.
Originally, the department had been regionally-focused, with U.S., China, and India sales offices providing services to all industries, types, and sizes in their specific regions. This strategy had been extremely effective during the past ten years as High Tech Inc was perfectly positioned to take full advantage of the rapid regional growth in the computer industry. However, new entrants into the market had increased competition making the old structure no longer effective.
Based on the customer feedback, Bill and his team determined that there was a clear need for change. They decided that the structure that would enable High Tech to compete most effectively was to change from five U.S. regionally-focused sales offices and two global offices (China and India) to one centralized office with salespeople dedicated to particular industries and sizes of companies. They also understood the magnitude of this change and potential impact it would have throughout High Tech. To make a change of this size, Bill and his team would need company-wide support.
This situation requires careful planning of an organizational communication strategy. What would you do? How would you handle communication with the sales force and the wider organization? How would you ensure buy-in from all of the stakeholders? Our book offers suggestions and explains the principles that should guide managers through this situation and other similar challenges to effective communication.